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Top baseball league requires teams to install protective padding to stadium walls

All Headlines 14:25 September 26, 2013

SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- The top domestic professional baseball league announced Thursday it will require teams to add new protective padding to walls at their home ballparks.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said its teams must pad their fences before the start of the 2015 season and that padding must be at least 80 millimeters thick.

Currently, nine teams play in eight ballparks. A 10th team, the KT Wiz, will join the league at the start of the 2015 season in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, just south of Seoul.

The league said it commissioned the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation (KSPO) to conduct studies on ballpark safety to arrive at the required size of the padding.

"At first, the KSPO said the padding should be at least 150㎜ thick," the KBO said. "However, after studying some international cases, we concluded that 80㎜ would be enough to help prevent players' injuries."

According to the KBO, the padding on the outfield walls must be at least 2.4 meters high, and the padding along the first and third base walls must be at least 1 meter high.

The KBO also said it and the KSPO will conduct safety tests on padded walls once a year and will ask for reinstallation or refurbishment should they fall short of safety standards.

The league's announcement comes amid increased injuries among players and growing calls for changes to ballpark fences. In June this year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the KBO said they would work together to ensure better protection for players.

The KBO and its teams have been on the hot seat for years as several players sustained serious injuries when they crashed into walls.

This year alone, the SK Wyverns' left fielder Lee Myung-gi slammed into the wall trying to catch a long fly ball at Munhak Stadium in Incheon on May 8 and injured his left ankle. Three weeks later, Lotte Giants' outfielder Jeong Hoon slid head-first into the first base wall at Sajik Stadium in Busan chasing a pop foul and lay motionless for a moment before being carried off the field on a stretcher.

Though Jeong escaped a serious injury, his play prompted the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) to issue a statement urging the KBO to quickly replace the walls.

Among earlier high-profile cases, Kia Tigers' All-Star outfielder Lee Yong-kyu broke his ankle in his collision with the center-field wall and missed several weeks of play in 2009.

In 1998, Kang Dong-woo, a high-touted rookie outfielder with the Samsung Lions, suffered a broken fibula after crashing into a wall and was unable to play for the next two years.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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